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Songs of Life's Complaint

"The work, in total, was audacious, richly textured and as romantic in its way as the poems which inspired it."

Omaha World-Herald

"The most interesting work of the evening was the Canadian premiere of Songs of Life's Complaint by Canadian composer Andrew MacDonald. Dramatic and forceful, it powerfully communicated a feeling of anguish.
The composer, who was present for the performance, has written some brilliant music for a large orchestra that makes a highly personal statement. It would be difficult to be unmoved by feelings of despair expressed by the composer."

The Winnipeg Free Press


Excursions for Flute Alone

"Intellectual weight tipped the balance at last night's concert, with only Andrew P. MacDonald's Excursions for Flute Alone providing something light. Keri­Lynn Wilson provided the zest to make the puckish work playful and charming. Her performance was such that Excursions inspires images that are at once lyrical and phantasmagorical."

The Winnipeg Free Press


In the Garden of Gæa

"The title of Andrew P. MacDonald's In the Garden of Gæa suggested a more earthbound view-Gæa being the goddess of the earth-but his eye was fixed on the bloody legends of the Titans, the Cyclopes, and Uranus, from whom sprang the lovely Aphrodite. No music could possibly tell that story, yet there is a narrative thrust to the work, and musical motifs that might well have been character-sketches. The pleasure in this work lay in MacDonald's feeling for orchestral texture, which he expressed with considerable power."

The Toronto Star


Violin Concerto

"MacDonald's enormously impressive Violin Concerto received its world premiere Tuesday evening from violinist David Stewart, with the MCO guest-conducted by Susan Haig, and on every count it showed itself as a work of character and quality. MacDonald's syntax has that same sort of swashbuckling optimism Walton shows in his Violin Concerto, along with a similarly concentrated use of the orchestra where each melodic fragment has real relevance to the overall texture. The work is boldly scored, with the solo line felicitously virtuosic yet integrated into the whole, giving the sense of a taughtly symphonic structure throughout its three-sectioned single movement. There are influences but these are mixed to suggest a peculiarly individual landscape where sustained, slower moving colors are frequently found changing behind passages of much animation. Although the tone of the work is lean and muscular overall, there is plenty of appealingly Romantic sweep, but it is so skillfully managed that one never senses imbalances of mood or intent."

The Winnipeg Free Press

"MacDonald's Violin Concerto, begun in 1987 and completed in 1991, sparkles with life, both in its brilliant writing for the soloist and its imaginative use of orchestral colour. If you want a parallel, my feeling is that MacDonald's work has a closely-related uncle in the form of the Walton concerto: it shares the same sun-dappled textures, the same pervasive lyricism, the same concern with clarity. It is instantly appealing and ought to find favour with audiences wherever it is performed."

Fanfare

"The opening with its horns both creates a strong atmosphere and gets the thematic discourse rolling. There is an earthy, peasant-flavored entry for the solo violin, craftily supported by the orchestra. At last, a Canadian composer for whom the expression 'well orchestrated' is not a euphemism for 'musically empty'.
The tranquil second movement is effortlessly sustained, while a trace of Gypsy blood can be heard in the finale, with its angular rhythms. Violin writing is tough but idiomatic, with cadenzas that sound touched a bit by Ravel, a bit by Ysaye.
Canadian music? Well, we'll take it."

The Montreal Gazette


Double Concerto:

There was certainly no lack of the dramatic in Canadian composer Andrew P. MacDonald’s Double Concerto for Violin, Piano and Orchestra, written for Newfoundland’s ECMA nominated Duo Concertante.
The composer pitted the two soloists against each other and against the orchestra, brilliantly handling the seemingly Goliath task of balancing two delicate instruments with the massive orchestral forces.
Violinist Nancy Dahn and pianist Timothy Steeves demonstrated playing characterized by outstanding clarity, expert technique and an intense energy that was sustained from start to finish.
The orchestra played at its uninhibited best, showing that they could indeed play with fearless abandon. The piece demonstrated MacDonald’s masterful orchestral writing, an absolutely thorough understanding of the capabilities of each instrument.
The composer used a great variety of tone colours and a modern harmonic language to enhance a piece characterized by an aura of pervading restlessness and rhythmic intensity which was interrupted by only a few sporadic moments of calm.

The Guardian, Charlottetown, P.E.I. • Friday, February 25, 2000

The centerpiece of the evening with the premiere performance of Ontario-born composer Andrew MacDonald’s Double Concerto Op. 51 for violin, piano and orchestra...
Any trepidation I may have had before Friday’s concert evaporated as MacDonald’s magnificent work unfolded. Roughly following a traditional fast-slow-fast layout, but all in one movement, the concerto invoked a broad and fertile range of orchestral textures and instrumental pairings.
The first and closing sections offer a sort of angular antiphony of thematic material, in which the duo and various orchestral combinations play off each other. As exciting as all the florid developments and cadenzas were, however, some of the most inspired ideas were to be found in the slow section. At one point the bottom drops out of the texture as Dahn and principal flutist Michelle Cheramy answer back and forth on a single ethereal note. The motif later recurs in piano with flute, and then between soloists. It seems like such a simple idea, yet comes across as thoroughly ingenious.
As promised by the composer in his program notes, the concerto served well as a vehicle for Dahn’s and Steeves’ virtuosic talents, which were much in evidence Friday night. But MacDonald equally challenges the orchestral musicians to take full advantage of their instruments’ capabilities.
I could have left happy at the intermission,...

The Telegram, St. John’s, Nfld. • Sunday, February 20, 2000


Triangulum:

...it was an appealing opus, written in a mildly dissonant, accessible style. There was some energetic and exotic writing in the outer movements, but the highlight was the interior Hymn to a Deltaic God. This remarkable intermezzo, mixing frankly lyrical solo writingÉ with a gentle ostinato of abstract-sounding open intervals, could stand alone as an encore. Quarter-tone sequences worked nicely as special effects and the final chord was richly ambiguous.

The Gazette, Montreal • November 28, 1998


Hermes of the Stars:

Andrew MacDonald’s Hermes of the Stars had the upper strings on their feet, rather like a period instrument band in the throws of Baroque gesture, which the piece’s veneer emulates.
MacDonald was on hand to introduce his music, explaining its bond of classical Greek influences to his own musical syntax. The work resembles a concerto grosso for strings, ...
In three sections, Hermes of the Stars packs a fine emotional wallop.

Winnipeg Free Press • Thursday, March 18, 1999


Pleiades Variations:

MacDonald’s Pleiades Variations was inspired by the star cluster of that name, prominent in winter skies over the northern hemisphere. In a tribute to the seven-star constellation, the piece is formally divided into seven sections, each of which is a variation on a seven-note theme. The music is serene and mysterious, as befits the subject matter.
The musicians’ playing is impeccable throughout, reveling in the warm, evocative combination of these instruments. Standouts include Shulman’s flawless flutter-tongue in the middle movement...

Opus (formerly Classical Music Magazine), Toronto • July 1999


In the Eagle’s Eye:

I was prepared to dislike this work, as there are few contemporary works which I find pleasurable as aesthetic music experiences, but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and craftsmanship. It is well written for the instruments and the Gryphon Trio performed dazzling pyrotechnics and fervent lyricism in their performance of this colourful piece.

Nelson Daily News, Nelson, B.C. • 1996

In the Eagle’s Eye, Op. 37 is a superb piece by Andrew P. MacDonald. It is partly descriptive, but largely abstract, evoking exactly what the title suggests. Wednesday’s reading was only the third performance it has received, but one can confidently predict that it will receive many more.
... I will pass up no opportunity to hear more of his music, and suggest that you do likewise.

The Ottawa Citizen • Thursday, August 8, 1996


After Dark...:

After Dark... by Mr. MacDonald was a descriptive piece which fit well with recent Halloween celebrations. “Procession of the Night Things” had an ominous beginning, alternating chords in the lowest octaves of the keyboard with delicate melodic lines in the upper-most keys. Ms. Andrist’s musical approach to the notes made the work accessible to all.

The Daily Gleaner, Fredericton, N.B. • Wednesday, November 4, 1992

Last updated:  08/31/2005